Heritable true fitness and bright birds: A role for parasites?

William D. Hamilton, Malene Zuk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2835 Scopus citations


Combination of seven surveys of blood parasites in North American passerines reveals weak, highly significant association over species between incidence of chronic blood infections (five genera of protozoa and one nematode) and striking display (three characters: male "brightness," female "brightness," and male song). This result conforms to a model of sexual selection in which (i) coadaptational cycles of host and parasites generate consistently positive offspring-on-parent regression of fitness, and (ii) animals choose mates for genetic disease resistance by scrutiny of characters whose full expression is dependent on health and vigor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)384-387
Number of pages4
Issue number4570
StatePublished - 1982


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